The Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans

This past Spring, I started a new Blog: 300 Words, 2 Minutes.

My stated intention was to write – and produce a podcast of – 300 words per day (about 2 minutes of spoken content, hence the name. I know, right?).

For a while, I was able to do it.

I was knocking down 300 words of written content like nobody’s biz, and keeping a relatively decent daily stream of content posted to SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, and YouTube. All good in the neighborhood.

And then – the demands of my paying gig simply made even this small commitment nigh impossible to maintain.

I kept assuring myself that I could get it back on track. I still have many great ideas for posts that remain in my noggin, but ready to commit to what the kids used to call the blogosphere (that is, if you were a kid ten years ago).

Alas. My commute, work obligations, and family life are just not allowing it to happen – at the level of quality that I would like to attain with my writing, anyway. If I can’t give it my best, I’m just not going to try and throw out any old dreck.

It’s not just my podcasts and writing that are suffering. My output on other social channels has also been seriously neglected. That’s not an altogether terrible thing, BTW. But I am feeling seriously disconnected from my former levels of social media citizenship.

If it were simply a matter of striking a balance, or squeezing a few more productive moments out of the day, or just sleeping less, I would do it. But I don’t think that is going to get me over the hump.

What I really need is a producer (and a fashion consultant – different post, for a different day). Trying to figure out how to make that work, or even happen. I am open to suggestions / recommendations.

In the meantime, I do have 8-10 days free coming up soon, to see if I can perform a bit of a reboot, on both 300 Words, and on Logorrhea.

So – all this is to say – that I miss hunkering down to knock out a 300-word literary gem every day, and I miss the intentionality of setting aside soak time for self-reflection. I want to be a more proactive thinker, rather than the reactive drone I’ve been of late.

That’s the plan. Let’s see how it goes.

Playing Well with Others

Playing Well with Others

Great musicians aren’t necessarily just the ones who are the most dextrous, or those who exhibit complete mastery over their chosen instrument.

From my perspective, the best musicians are also those who can absolutely “shred” on their own and collaborate seamlessly in an ensemble.

I was reminded of my deficiencies in this regard a couple of years ago, when a colleague of mine invited me to sit in on a couple of songs at a bar in Little Rock. My colleague has been playing in and around Little Rock professionally for thirty-odd years, and it was beyond kind and generous to let this noob share the stage.

One of the songs we played was Amie, by Pure Prairie League.

Now, I have been playing this song, solo and with others, for a score of years, at least. I knew the vocals, the leads, the breaks, the bridge, the turn around – I had the song. Cold.

But, knowing how the song should be played along with on the record, and with a live band, are two entirely different things.

As I came to re-learn all over again, when we came to the instrumental break between verses two and three.

The iconic, syncopated A-G-D chord progression between every verse of Amie is duplicated every time it’s played, with one exception: after the break, when it is played only one time through.

And that is how I have always played it.

But, the band I was playing that night had played Amie for years together, and had always doubled the progression, throughout. So, when it came to the break, I jumped back into the chorus early (from the band’s perspective) – but right on time (from my perspective).

In reality, it was I that was wrong; I should have picked up that they were going to duplicate the A-G-D progression. I wasn’t listening well, or closely, enough – instead, I was focusing only on my upcoming vocal.

Fortunately, these guys were the seasoned pros I knew them to be, and it didn’t become a huge trainwreck. The song, and the rest of the set, went off fine.

All this preamble is to say – that you can technically and factually be in the right, and still be completely wrong.

Being a great collaborator isn’t about being right; it’s about getting the very best results from those with whom you collaborate, and reacting to the changing facts on the ground, as they are, and not as they should be.

If you want to be the Leader of the Band, you first have to learn to Play Well with Others.


The “L” Word

The “L” Word

Originally posted on Taking Aim:

by Roger Pynn

People in our profession ought to see it as job security that so many articles on success in business are dedicated to communication.  For instance, my inbox today brought one from Forbes and another from Fortune.

On, SnappConner PR founder Cheryl Conner’s item headlined “3 Steps to a Billion Dollar Company” had a parenthetical subhead:  “A Hint: Communication is Key.”  One of those steps was “Tell the authentic story only your brand can tell.”

Fortune published a piece by Halogen Software VP of HR Dominique Jones titled “The single worst mistake that a manager can make.”  She shared a list of things managers should do, beginning with “Communicate goals clearly and often.”

You ought to read both of these.  They deliver things you probably already know, but they are good reminders.  More importantly, both make it clear that communication isn’t just about what you…

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Being data-driven is great. Customer Service Theatre is not.

Being data-driven is great. Customer Service Theatre is not.

Is it just me, or has every interaction with every customer service entity devolved into a funnel for customer service surveys?

In fact, on at least two customer service calls I’ve made in the last two weeks, I’ve been proffered a survey, before I even get to contact a rep.

Something’s wrong here.

In fact, I suggest that the overuse of customer service surveys is akin to the misuse of antibiotics in fighting infections – after awhile, a certain immunity builds up, and before you know, surveys are totally ineffective.

Don’t believe me?

Go to a dealership, and buy a car. Before you leave the lot, you are asked to rank the interaction for J.D Power and Associates. Anything less than a perfect ranking is a black eye for the dealership. So, you are instructed that by your salesperson, and asked to vote them a 10. Teaching to the test, as it were. I therefore hold the Power awards to be pretty useless, because they describe nothing about the excellence of the actual customer interaction, only in how well dealers – and anyone using the ranking – game the ranking process.

For an example in the sharing economy, look no further than Uber. I love Uber – and use it regularly. After each ride, you are asked to rank the experience. If drivers average experience rankings fall below a 4.0 out 5.0, they are sanctioned. Regulars know this, and so will rank even average rides as 4.0 so as not to screw the drivers. In other words, the ranking holds no substantive meaning in terms of describing – and improving – actual customer experience; it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

My local cable provider, Optimum, does an exceptional job at customer experience. In fact, their video explaining customer’s first bill is one of the best customer-facing tools I’ve seen in a long time. However, even their techs will push you to rank them highly, when the inevitable survey is sent.

I don’t blame those being ranked for gaming the system. It’s what I would do.

Rather, I would ask companies – are your customer data collection instruments actually improving customer experience, or are you simply providing a mechanism for collecting information for punitive action against those being measured?

If the answer is the latter, you’re doing it wrong.

I “get” that surveys and self-reporting are often the only way to get at some of this information.

But companies should not advertise how they are teasing these metrics internally, to prevent gaming of the system, and to obtain data that is actionable and unbiased, rather than having the customer pre-fed insincere answers that they should supply, regarding their interaction.

Otherwise, it’s only an exercise in self-delusion: customer service theatre.

Customer Service Theatre

The queen sacrifice in education fiction

The queen sacrifice in education fiction

Originally posted on Bryan Alexander:

Upsala Photo from IHE article. Not sure where this is.

Inside Higher Ed ran a column yesterday on a plan to overhaul a hypothetical small college.  In “The State of St. Bridget’s, July 2017” Aden Hayes describes this plan in detail, including a queen sacrifice move.

These are putatively “fundamental changes”, also known as “streamlining”.  They include a variety of practical steps to save and/or generate money: outsourcing some operations; selling a campus building; entering a purchasing co-op with other campuses; going after adult learners; going after online students; joining a library consortium.  I note the canny shift of overseas attention from Britain to China.

The queen sacrifice, cutting academics, is also here.

We have closed two academic programs that had been underenrolled for years — including the interdisciplinary program in Northeast Studies, which competed directly with a similar program at the nearby state university. Three departments had their…

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Originally posted on Taking Aim:

by Kim Stangle

There’s information and then there’s too much information, or TMI as it’s commonly referred.

In a news release announcing the appointment of its new chief marketing officer, HubSpot, an inbound marketing company, surely crossed into TMI territory with its diatribe disguised as news.  The release –which delves into reasons for the new appointment (ethical violations) – sounds more like a police report than a progressions release for an incoming executive.

Given their industry prowess, it’s hard to believe that HubSpot’s leadership would allow so many sordid details to be released.  Sure, it shows their board acted quickly to remove an employee they deemed potentially harmful to their brand, but did they consider how harmful it may be to air all the dirty laundry while they were at it?

News releases can still be a powerful tool to tell your company’s story, just be mindful of which…

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Commit Me

Commit Me


When you wholly commit – to a course of action, to a strategy, to a purpose – your decision making power, authority, and focus amplifies, by definition. That’s because all the mental energy and head space that you were formerly devoting to indecision, may now be brought to bear in actually doing.

Originally posted on 300 Words, 2 Minutes:

It’s mind-boggling, how much energy we spend on unanswered questions… pending decisions… the uncertain future.

It’s the metaphorical equivalent of sitting in your driveway with the engine on, your foot stomped on the gas pedal, all the way to the floor; furiously burning through everything in the tank, but going absolutely nowhere.

Truly, many problems are entirely outside our span of control, perhaps leading us to believe all we can do, is offer up some semblance of the serenity prayer, and simply hope for the best.

Look at the people you know, who are successful. Who achieve. Who get things done.

What trait makes them so effective at what they do, while others seem to sputter and fall?

They are able to commit. And, to reap the immediate benefits that commitment brings along with it.


When you wholly commit  – to a course of action, to a strategy, to a purpose – your decision making power, authority, and focus amplifies, by definition. That’s…

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